Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson, MP visited King’s today to urge universities to follow in its footsteps and improve their performance on helping disadvantaged students access and succeed in higher education. Joined by Baroness Ruby McGregor-Smith, Mr Williamson was making his first official visit to a university as Secretary of State for Education.
In a meeting with King’s Principal and President Professor Edward Byrne AC and Director of Social Mobility and Student Success Anne-Marie Canning MBE, Mr Williamson praised King’s for blazing the trail through a number of pioneering projects to widen participation. He highlighted the success of programmes such as K+, which offers intensive revision sessions for disadvantaged students at A Level and King’s Scholars which increases attainment at Key Stage 3, both of which is a true demonstration of the university’s service to society.
The Minister toured the Entrepreneurship Institute, and King’s Business School and heard from a range of King’s students who have benefited from the university’s support and passionately described their own experiences at King’s.
Commenting on his visit to King’s Mr Williamson said of the university, ‘From being a very middle-class university, it’s been transformed into one of the most diverse universities anywhere in the country. Diverse in terms of the background of students, social-economic, of course a great international university, but also reaching out into black and ethnic minority communities right across the country.’
The Minister’s visit coincided with the publication of new statistics on access and participation by university regulator the Office for Students (OfS) and he underlined his determination to take action and ensure every student choosing to go to university – regardless of background – is supported to get the most out of the experience. He also emphasised that universities must deliver on plans to improve access and participation for disadvantaged students and put an end to the high rates of students dropping out of courses.
Mr Williamson’s challenge follows a recent speech he made at the Universities UK annual conference, where he addressed vice-chancellors from across the country, and called for more to be done to ensure wider access to universities for students from all backgrounds.